It is now week eight of spring term at Lane Community College with the end of the fiscal year fast approaching on June 30. On May 17, the Board of Education held their final public forum to hear concerns from faculty, students and the community before approving the finalized budget proposal.
Similar to the budget committee meetings prior to last Wednesday’s, the meeting began at 5:30 p.m. Outgoing ASLCC president Robert Kirkpatrick began by reiterating similar comments he had made at meetings prior.
“This decision is a hard one, but what are we going to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again next year?” Kirkpatrick said. “We don’t want to use the bandaid tactic as we have in the past but we don’t want to take things away from people. Where’s the middle ground?”
According to the approved proposal, the college will be balancing the budget with reductions to the following programs:
- Two full-time counselors from the counseling department will be eliminated and moved to other departments for which they are qualified.
- Religion and Philosophy will eliminate the religion discipline and eliminate one FTE faculty instructor.
- Elimination of Honors Program and one faculty position from the Grants program.
- Elimination of the Respiratory Therapy Program and reduce faculty by one FTE faculty instructor.
- Elimination of the Watershed Technician program and the Successful Aging Institute program.
- Elimination of Workforce Development Program.
There is a reason for the swift cuts being made at Lane starting next year. Enter Jim Salt. Salt is an instructor in sociology at Lane. He is also currently the president of the LCCEA which is Lane’s union that represents the rights and needs of the college’s faculty.
“It’s quite an extensive role, actually. Aside from organizing committee functions, the president is also responsible for electing the other members of the committee, as well as maintaining the goals of the association,” Salt said.
Salt is also one of the representatives for the Lane budget sub-committee. The sub-committee’s job is to add input specifically from Lane’s faculty and offer ideas from their perspective on how the school can balance the budget. The idea is for the faculty involved to work in tandem with the administration’s budget committee to come up with the most relevant information on how to solve accounting-related issues for the school and then present these solutions to the board.
This year, however, Salt feels that the administration’s budget committee did not do their part to acknowledge the solutions found by the sub-committee.
“The administration never showed any interest whatsoever in not only reaching a consensus, but also not doing anything other than the plan they had developed unilaterally,” Salt said.
According to Salt, the administration only accepted three of the alternate options that the budget sub-committee had made in their majority proposal. These options could have helped the college from preventing cutting programs and laying off faculty.
“I think this was a conscious decision by the administration to simply decide to develop a proposal unilaterally and to ignore alternatives, criticisims, lack of supporting evidence and rely upon the board and the budget committee to vote in favor of that unilateralism which is exactly what happened,” Salt said.
Even though the budget sub-committee had differences in opinion with the administration, they were fully aware that many reductions would still have to be made. The budget sub-committee majority proposal was only in favor of reductions in programs, instead of outright eliminations.
“In terms of the Early Childhood Education Program, one full faculty member is now voluntarily retiring early from the ECE at great expense to them to prevent the program from being eliminated,” Salt said.
Salt also highlighted that the administration was not always clear on what they planned to do with faculty that were currently being eliminated from one department and assigned to another.
“In terms of the counseling department, the board isn’t eliminating counselors to save any money at all. They’re laying off two faculty members in order to take the expenses associated with them and use that to expand the Oregon Promise Program. The administration misrepresented that to the budget committee and the students and counseling faculty wanted to keep those positions,” Salt said.
To counter this dilemma Salt explained that the budget sub-committee and a few involved students had an idea to raise the new proposed health clinic fee a bit more to make up the proposed savings from potentially cutting two counselors.
Salt also explained that the biggest overall problem with the board and the administration’s unilateral decision making is that they are not recognizing the needs and rights of the students and faculty. He also hopes that Lane’s new president will push for more of a bipartisan approach to solving matters of finance for the college.
At the end of the meeting board member Tony McCown expressed the perspective the board faced in regards to voting on the budget proposal.
“At some point our work has to be done. We are the elected leaders of this school and we’re three days away from a deadline that can cost us more than $800,000 if we do not meet it. I’m not in support of program cuts, but I know I have to present a balanced budget. I know I have a set of numbers from an administration that has provided exemplary data time and time again,” McCown said.
Following McCowns statement a few more board members said their piece, the vote was cast and the administration’s budgetary proposal was approved. The vote was unanimous with the exception of board member Matt Keating.